I wrote this in the autumn of 2020, but, as ever, have been slow to polish and publish.
These escapes from the house, from people, from being stationary, into an environment of mastery of the machine, you, it and the road, in motion together, well, these moments become the embodiment of freedom
My thought in writing this began simply as a desire to mark the empty roads I have enjoyed driving the covid 19 pandemic. However, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like one of those Picasso pictures where three dimensional objects are rendered in two dimensions, creating a disconcerting viewed-through-broken-glass perspective. Some parts of motoring felt like the 1950s must have – empty roads, and time to rebuild a carburetor on a Sunday afternoon, while other parts were the middle of the 21st century brought forwards, with “mobility” increasingly being a virtual thing and less about actually physically going anywhere, and therefore needing a car to do it.
Let me unpack the different bits of this odd kaleidoscope –
The pandemic has forcibly reminded me how much I love the simple steak-and-eggs formula of the Bullitt Mustang.
The lock down engendered a need in me to get out. Once I endured a corporate training week in Boston, and when it ended, I went straight to the car rental agency, got the most powerful car they had (a burgundy Pontiac Bonneville) and simply drove. I was on Cape Cod before I even thought to stop for food, or do anything which wasn’t the wonderful oblivion of driving a long way on a modern highway. Covid affected me like that; I would drive purely for pleasure, finding myself thirty miles from home before I considered what my route was to be.
Of course, I have driven for pleasure before, but always with a destination in mind. For many decades now, vacations and driving enabled each other. Even my honeymoon to Thailand involved 1500 miles in a Honda Civic. But in Covid, the driving is aimless. This isn’t anything like the “rolling the backstreets” I used to do with the Fabricator, since that had a specific goal: spotting interesting old cars kerbside, in driveways or under tarpaulins. Rather, the pandemic drive is a pure escape from the city, from being at home, from people, from the corona; driving literally and figuratively took me away from all of that. Which brings us back the old green Mustang, with its 2xxhp, 5 speed manual transmission and spring chicken 130,000 miles. Unlike the rest of my life, familiar, predictable, completely under my control.